The word Atitlán is a Mayan word that translates as “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. The village residents are mostly indigenous, Cakchiquel Mayas.
Lake Atitlán is situated at an altitude of 5118 ft., located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and approximately four hours from Guatemala City. The lake was formed 150,000 years ago when Tolimán, after years of building pressure, discharged in a violent expulsion of magma, ash and sand. The eruptive column reached heights of 25 to 34 miles and dispersed ash over an area from Florida to Ecuador. So much magma had been expelled that only an empty cavity remained. The area collapsed due to the weight of the earth above it forming the the 11 mile diameter caldera. The caldera filled over time with rainwater and sediment to create the present lake of today and at it’s deepest depth is 340 miles.
Seismic activity has been low in the last decade, but volcanic activity does influence relatively long-period fluctuations in the lakes level. Due to changes, caused by a rising and falling of the silt layer at the bottom of the lake, cycles of volcanic activity and inactivity has caused an approximate 50-60 year cycle.
The main village along Lake Atitlán would be Panajachel, Lake Atitlán’s most visited town and transport hub for the whole lake. A large part of the successful tourist infrastructure.
San Pedro La Laguna has become the poplar destination for backpackers and known for a laid-back hippyish small town as well as the indigenous local residents.
San Marcos La Laguna is well known as the village of meditation. Offering reiki, yoga, massages, aromatherapies, Chinese health therapies, reflexology, meditation, holistic treatments and other new age therapies.
On the south side of the lake is Santiago, the largest community around the lake where many still practice many of the old traditions. The main street up from the dock offer stores and stands where the local artisans sell wooden and other handcrafted products. The town offers a small variety of quality hotel-restaurants, although not as widely poplar as some of the other busy villages, this small town is famous for a shrine to Maximón.
Santa Cruz La Laguna, located on north side of Lake Atitlán and has been growing in popularity recently.
San Juan La Laguna is considered the hub for its natural colored dyed fabrics and clothing. Agriculture is most important for the economy as well with the service sector growing, especially as the number of tourists increase.
There are a total of 12 villages on the lake and all are just a boat ride away.